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India's school for the poor but gifted (thenational.ae)
43 points by kafkacrazy on July 26, 2009 | hide | past | web | favorite | 14 comments

Back in the era of the urban blight (which some of you may be old enough to remember), there were (and still are) schools like this in NYC and SF that have served as a beacon to the poor kids there. It's not as if we can't do that here, and it's not as if no small amount of good comes from them.





Seven Nobel Prize winning alumni for Joel's alma mater. Stuyvesant has two graduates in Obama's cabinet.

Now just imagine what we could do with one of these schools in every major city.

Imagine if all teachers were even 10% as invested in their students as Mr. Kumar - "He coached them for free and paid for their lodging. His mother cooked all their meals. For months, he stoically toiled with their books till 2am every night. On the big day, he dropped them at their test centre, and waited."

Also, this next quote applies to pretty much everyone. The second someone has the confidence that they can do anything and feel empowered, they will do amazing things, which is exactly what you pointed out, Squirrelman. “Basically, all poor lack confidence even if they have the brains,” Mr Kumar said. “You instil confidence in them, and the world is their oyster.”

Due to intricacies of the NYC tenure structure, Stuyvesant doesn't even have particularly good teachers -- they get many teacher who are essentially retiring and want students who will teach themselves. It hasn't prevented the school from providing and excellent education, though, but most of it comes from the advanced peer group.

Here is a documentary on this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMSYGLbIUxc

Thank you.

My favorite line:

“For a year, you walk, eat, sleep, and dream IIT,” he said. “There’s no room for anything else.”

The most surprising sentence:

"Mr Kumar is guarded around the clock by three policemen carrying AK-47 rifles."

That's not too surprising. Bihar is India's token redneck state and can be very dangerous, particularly if you find yourself at odds with the highly corrupt bureaucracy.

What saddens me most is that scarcity of education makes this story possible. The fact that there are so few seats for so many candidates and that the rich have their own inside channels to getting their kids admitted are other reasons for being very careful.

What really is needed is the lifting of this scarcity so that everybody can learn to the best of their abilities not just a handpicked few (and not just because they happen to be poor!)

This is exactly what happened in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. In 1985, when I finished high school, there were less than 10,000 seats in the whole state of (about 60 million people). Today, there are more than 150,000. Today, practically any kid that wants to attend an engineering college can get into one, and many seats actually go unfilled. The quality of the education is spotty, but really, what this education achieved is a kind of placebo effect - give confidence to people, which is what Kumar also describes. This explosion in number of colleges directly played a role in the emergence of the IT industry, which is primarily based in southern India.

I wrote about it in 2006: http://blogs.adventnet.com/svembu/2006/01/19/a-not-so-brief-...

I reposted it now at Zoho: http://blogs.zoho.com/general/why-it-happened-in-southern-in...

I remember reading about this and the stated reason is the fact that his competition hates that he is offering his classes for free.

Not very surprising.

If you intend to be a responsible citizen in India, you need a licensed Beretta Pistol.

"Not very surprising.

If you intend to be a responsible citizen in India, you need a licensed Beretta Pistol."

This is completely untrue. ( I am Indian and live in India). In India, like in the UK, it is the rare civilian who has a gun, with the badlands of Bihar and some parts of Uttar Pradesh being exceptions. How did you conclude that "being a responsible citizen you need a pistol?"!!

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